Cashmerette’s Harrison Shirt-dress is an expansion on her ever-popular Harrison button-down shirt, but there’s more to the expansion than just adding however much length at the bottom. The shape is changed to be a bit flared, rather than fitted all the way down, and the armholes have been redrafted to be higher and tighter so it can be sleeveless without side-boob-exposing gaps.
The pattern is available two ways:
It’s very important to choose the right package for your needs. I thought I could be clever and cheap, and just buy the sleeveless dress, and then use the free full-bicep sleeve she made available. But because the armholes on the sleeveless dress are different from the armholes on the sleeved shirt, the sleeve wouldn’t fit into the armhole that was meant to be sleeveless. So then I had to go back and buy the original shirt, too. Therefore:
- if you will ever want sleeves on your dress, buy the shirt + expansion pack
- if you know you will only ever want it sleeveless, buy the standalone dress pattern
One of the great things about Cashmerette patterns is, they have the Full Bust Adjustment already built in, and come in C/D, E/F, and G/H cup sizes. The size range is from 12C/D (B40″/W30″/H42″) to 28G/H(B58″/W48″/H58″).
The cut and fit is quite hourglassy, and I am anything but – maybe a pear with a big tummy? or an apple with a big bum? – my measurements are B52″/W48″/H58″. Getting a good fit was still pretty easy, though. I started with a 24C/D through the shoulders and bust. The sleeves for a fuller bicep really helped; I usually have to do a major increase to the sleeves on most patterns, but the full bicep sleeves were just right. Then, since my waist doesn’t really go “in” at the front or sides, for all the front, and the side-back pieces, I just drew a straight line from the widest point of the bust for size 24, to the widest point of the hip for size 28. On my pattern piece, you can see the blue line for size 24, the purple line for size 28, and then the paper is the actual shape I cut.
The result was a fit that is trim through the shoulders and bust, and skims from there on down…
I used a non-stretch, 100% cotton, twill-weave heavy-ish shirting from Fabricmart. The construction process was a real pleasure. The pattern is drafted beautifully; every notch lines up perfectly the way it’s supposed to, no need to fudge or guess. The instructions are clear and straightforward, and if you need more help, there are some excellent tutorials. Some of the construction is physically a little tricky – like sewing the concave and convex curves together for the princess seams – but the way the pattern is marked, it’s easiest princess seam I’ve done. Also to do the collar, cuffs, and button band requires some picky and precise topstitching, so I wouldn’t recommend this pattern for a beginner, but for a more intermediate sewist such as myself, it was quite manageable.
You’ll notice, I can never make a pattern exactly as the designer intended. I made the following design changes:
- used only the collar stand, and turned it into a banded collar
- cut off the sleeves at cap length – I really dislike long sleeves
- straightened the hem instead of having a shirt-tail shape – even at 5’3″ I found the sides were a little short for my preferences for wearing to work.
- And I added pockets! Cashmerette just happens to have a good tutorial on adding an in-seam pocket – you can do the same thing to Harrison as she does to Turner.
Here’s a clever trick about pockets, though: If you put the pocket in the side seam of a semi-fitted dress like Harrison, the pocket bag rests against your body, and when you put stuff in your pocket, you get an unsightly bulge.
If you have a protruding belly, though, this is a situation where you can leverage your shape to your advantage: what if you move the pocket over to the princess seam? Now, if you put the pocket at juuuust the right height, the pocket bag hangs below the curve of your belly, and when you put stuff in the pocket, the contents hang in the space below your belly, leaving your dress in a smooth line. I actually did the entire photoshoot for this dress, with a big ring of keys in my pocket, but I bet you can’t find it!
The bottom line:
I love this dress. I have made a second one, but because I made it in a hurry, I messed it up badly enough that I’m not going to put pictures on the internet. There will be many more, though, where I take my time and do it right.
Size range: 5 – Pretty inclusive but I would love to see larger. I would have given it a 4, but then I gave a bonus point for offering a full-bicep sleeve.
Instructions: 5 – I was never in doubt what to do
Construction process: 5 – It went together beautifully
Final fit: 5 – Easy to get a great fit even if I’m not the hourglass it was designed for
Overall rating: 5 – This dress, to me, is pretty much the holy grail of shirt-dresses. Once I make a few more, it is likely to become my personal uniform.